GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 11 January) – That so-reported shootout on Marharlika Road in Atimonan, Quezon in the afternoon of last January 6 was a loud post-New Year greeting for President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and the Filipinos. The echo was loud, still ringing in the national media for almost a week – the message resounding.
The two sides in the shootout so-reported were a police-military contingent manning a checkpoint and a three-car convoy of suspected members of a crime syndicate that fired at the lawmen instead of stopping when flagged down. That story is familiar.
Two of the cars – Montero SUVs – were peppered with bullets, in the picture looking like sieves; the third car was able to turn around and flee. That, too, is familiar.
Eleven in the two cars were instantly killed; two others died on the way to the hospital. There were no survivors to answer questions. On the lawmen’s side, only the police officer in command of the checkpoint, standing behind another officer flagging the convoy to stop, suffered leg and arm wounds. Even that is not unfamiliar.
Two reports said ten guns were recovered from the two cars – eight caliber 45 pistols and two (M-14 and M-16) rifles; in a third report, 11 caliber 45 and one 9mm pistols, one M-14 rifle and one M-16 carbine. Evidently, the suspected criminals were outgunned – explaining the lack of details about the shootout and in damage on the checkpoint. That was a one-sided “shootout”.
Among the slain suspected “criminals” were a top official of Region IV-A Police Command and his two aides; three identified as military men – one belonging to the air force and two to the intelligence service (the two, officially denied as impostors); and seven others linked with “jueteng” – including one as the top operator in Southern Tagalog, who was also in security agency business but a suspected head of a gun-for-hire group. These are intriguing elements.
The immediate relatives of the “shootout victims” denied the accusations that their loved ones were in illegal and criminal business. By their accounts, the victims were not only innocents but were respectable and exemplary members of society. The police and military men were officially reported to have no criminal records; one victim was a municipal administrator and a civic leader; two were elected barangay officials. The relatives cried “rubout” and filed charges. That, too, is not new or unexpected.
Initially, the Palace supported the police report of the incident as “a legitimate operation” and “a shootout” (The Philippine Star, January 8, 2013: Killed in shootout: 3 cops, 3 soldiers). But in an Inquirer report, the President reversed the earlier position (Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 10, 2013: Aquino doubts Quezon encounter was a shootout, cites inconsistencies). And he ordered the National Bureau of Investigation as the sole agency to investigate the incident. While unfortunate, the flip-flop is not new.
In the above are facts of the “cops shoot cops” in capsules – the reports being updated by the hours. Loud is the echo: The crime fighters are deeply involved in crimes!!!
This is clearly implied in the focus of the investigation ordered – more than just on the facts of the so-reported shootout, on the association of the police on both sides of the shootout with persons or groups engaged in illegal activities. As reported in the media, sources within the Philippine National Police have called the shootout an eruption of “jueteng war”.
President Aquino III cannot ignore the resounding message: Look into your promise to fight corruption. The shootout clearly says you are failing.
In his platform, “A Social Contract with the Filipino People”, Aquino III, the candidate, highlighted eleven effects of corruption that “A people [are] crying out for change”. The shootout does not reflect well on the performance of Aquino III, the President.
One effect, the 10th enumerated, states: “Our moral faculties as a people have been paralyzed.” The police on both sides of the shootout and the alleged crime syndicate members involved are (and were) within the context of the term “a people”. Have their “moral faculties” been rid of the “paralysis” from corruption or any sign of “change”?
The NBI probe into the jueteng angle as well as criminal and illegal association angles behind the shootout will verify allegations of police protection enjoyed by criminal syndicates that are in legal business as fronts of their more lucrative illegal operations from the police on both sides of the shootout. However, to quote a popular saying: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Similar probes in the past – long past, in fact – including those in Congress had traced “smokes” to the “fire”.
The daughter of the slain top police official, Supt. Alfredo P. Consemino, an accounting clerk in the security agency of the alleged top jueteng operator, slain Victor R. Siman, told media the fact that her father and Siman were partners in a legal security agency business (Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 10, 2013: Aquino doubts Quezon …)
In two Inquirer reports, five minutes apart on January 8 (Killed in shootout: 3 cops, 3 soldiers and ‘Jueteng’ eyed in Quezon shootout), Siman was identified by police and military sources as operating a “gun-for-hire” group and illegal numbers games. Was Consemino, top Regional PNP official, not aware of this?
Even if the NBI would find Siman clean, Consemino’s business partnership with him in any capacity was a case of “conflict of interest” on the part of the latter – a form of moral corruption. This essentially is part of protection racket – well known in confidence, never proven in the open – thriving from the long past.
Like many presidents, is Aquino III also impotent against this moral corruption? In its other forms, moral corruption is staring at President Aquino III but appears unnoticed. – (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)